Parker Solar Probe (PSP) managed to “touch” the sun on April 28 this year and make a flight at the star’s “crown”, researchers revealed during a press conference at the American Geophysical Union meeting on Tuesday (12/). 14)) in New Orleans, United States.
The study on this feat was published on the website of the journal “Physical Review Letters” and will also be published in the popular “The Astrofisical Journal.” The news was also published by NASA.
According to the article, the achievement of the NASA probe is the “cornerstone” for studying the Sun and overcoming the “invisible frontier” in space research.
“The boundary that the PSP crosses is called the Alfvén surface – defined as the point where magnetic and kinetic energy are balanced. Above this surface, the solar wind flows freely away from the Sun. Below the surface, the movement of plasmas are dominated by magnetic fields, linking them to the Sun,” confirms the publication.
The data indicate that the first crossing of the still-unknown boundary was achieved when the probe traveled about 13 million km from the surface.
The name PSP is a tribute to physicist Eugene Parker who, since the 1950s, has stated that the solar wind has, more than once, crossed the boundaries of space, noting that the solar atmosphere is not a “soft ball”, but something “wrinkly” and full of reliefs.
Now, analyzing these points and valleys on the star’s surface may help understand how events in the deepest parts of the sun affect the entire atmosphere and the solar wind, the “engine” of solar storms that also hit Earth.
“This is a great time for solar science. Not only will this cornerstone provide a deeper insight into the evolution of the Sun and its impact on the Solar System, but everything we’ve learned about our star will teach us a lot about the rest of the universe,” said Thomas Zurbuchen, one of NASA’s science mission managers.
According to the expert, this mission is similar to “landing on the surface of the moon, which allowed us to understand how our natural satellite was formed.”
He noted that “touching the solar atmosphere will help us discover important information about our star.”
“By flying close to the sun, the Parker Solar Probe is now able to perceive solar corona conditions in a way we’ve never been able to do before,” said Noor Al Rawafi, a probe builder at Johns Hopkins University’s Applied Physics Laboratory.
“We see evidence of the corona in the magnetic field data, the solar wind data and clearly in the images. We can really see the probe flying through the coronal structures that can be observed during a total solar eclipse,” he added.
The spacecraft will continue to orbit the Sun, making a kind of spiral that will bring it closer and closer to the star, in a total of 24 complete revolutions, with ever higher temperatures. The goal is to reach at least 6 million km from the surface of the Sun.
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